The CZK/USD exchange rate at a time of uncertainty

This box aims to show the degree of symmetry of movements between the CZK/EUR and CZK/USD exchange rates relative to the USD/EUR currency pair, including the factors underlying those movements.

The koruna has been weakening recently against the US dollar (see Chart 1) amid appreciation of the dollar against the euro. A breakdown of the annual change in the CZK/USD exchange rate into the contributions of the changes in the USD/EUR and the CZK/EUR rates reveals that the strengthening of the dollar against the euro accounts for the lion’s share of the koruna’s depreciation against the dollar. Moreover, the koruna has recently also weakened against the euro, as it has in some other periods, for example at the peak of the financial crisis. On the other hand, several periods can be identified in which the CZK/EUR rate ran counter to the CZK/USD rate.

One possible explanation for a period of strengthening of the dollar is a rise in risk aversion around the world, assuming that the dollar has safe haven status. When risk aversion is high, investors prefer safe assets in very liquid currencies such as the Swiss franc or the Japanese yen. When potential profitability of transferring capital quickly into these safe currencies is restricted (e.g. the minimum exchange rate of the Swiss franc or the Japanese interventions in 2011), demand for the US dollar as a very liquid and credible alternative increases1.

There are many risk aversion indicators which are very close to financial stress measures2. However, no global indicator reflecting the portfolio composition of international investors is available. Uncertainty is therefore proxied by a financial stress indicator for the USA. It largely mirrors global sentiment, as the transmission of financial stress between countries has increased substantially, especially since 2009.

It can be observed over the last three years that an increase in stress is accompanied by appreciation of the dollar, supporting the safe dollar haven hypothesis (see Chart 3). However, financial stress also affects the CZK/EUR currency pair. Chart 4 indicates that the koruna appreciates against the euro when stress rises moderately in the euro area3, whereas a sharp rise in stress causes the koruna to depreciate. In the event of moderate stress, the koruna can react as a safe regional currency, but in a crisis there is an outflow of capital abroad, i.e. into safe global currencies. Therefore, the koruna can depreciate simultaneously against both the euro and the dollar, as can be observed since the onset of the euro area debt crisis.

1The literature shows that at times of uncertainty the Swiss franc and the Japanese yen appreciate even against the US dollar. Nonetheless, the dollar still functions as the second-best option in uncertain times, especially in relation to emerging market currencies; for details see Marion Kohler, 2010, “Exchange Rates During Financial Crises,” BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.

2An overview is given, for example, by Virginie Coudert and Mathieu Gex, 2008, “Does Risk Aversion Drive Financial Crises? Testing the Predictive Power of Empirical Indicators,” Journal of Empirical Finance, Vol. 15(2), pp. 167–184, March.

3More details on the indicator of financial stress in the euro area can be found in Global Economic Outlook, August 2011, CNB, pp. 20–21.